Leveraging social media to take kimonos global

Through social media, you can almost sell anything you want and give micro-entrepreneurs the potential to grow as the impact is really huge

By S BIRRUNTHA / Pic By TMR File

LOCAL micro-entrepreneurs can scale up their marketing reach with techno- logy, yet, so many of them are missing out on opportunities to launch their businesses digitally.

The Malaysia Digital Economy Corp (MDEC) and Cradle Fund Sdn Bhd’s collaborative eUsahawan Level Up programme offered special training and coaching to 50 high potential participants this year.

They were groomed to become more tech-savvy and have achieved more than RM11 million in sales revenue over a six-month period.

One of the participants who embraced the opportunity the eUsahawan Level Up programme offered was 32-year-old Suraya Mohd Nasir, a fashion entrepreneur who owns Asphodel Studio that specialises in clothes made from vintage kimono fabrics.

Suraya, a former aerospace engineer, joined the eUsahawan programme in 2017 and made her business into a full-time commitment after she recognised its potential.The programme opened her eyes to the power of social media as a platform to introduce her unique designs to the public and beyond the borders of Malaysia.

“In 2015, I was doing my kimono business part time and the sales were very low. Then, I joined MDEC and was taught on how to utilise digital marketing and focus on growing your business through social media.

“The programme taught me how to choose the right target market and ways to do online advertisements that will reach the public in an effective way.

“Now that I have fully learnt some of the strategies, I earn a minimum of RM15,000 per month using only Instagram as my selling platform,” Suraya told The Malaysian Reserve (TMR) in a recent interview.

The eUsahawan Level Up programme, which began in 2017, consists of two parts — six months of online and face-to-face training sessions with assigned personal coaches.

It offers three months of training in modules like Advanced Digital Marketing, Branding Facelift, eCommerce Website Development and much more.

Apart from selling her tailor-made kimonos online, Suraya now exports to Brunei, Singapore, China, Japan, Italy, France, the US, Qatar and Australia from her studio in Kuala Lumpur.

“I think the most important thing to look out for is the interest and demand as foreigners generally love anything that is unique. If they can buy batik from our country, they would definitely be interested to buy other products produced here.

The key is to identify the right target market based on the right age and location, and then you can start doing your advertisements,” she said.

She added online advertisements are a long-term process and it takes effort and creativity to reach out to the mass audience.

Suraya started her business based on her admiration for Japanese comics, anime and paintings. In the beginning, she admits her kimonos were a hard sell.

“Who would buy kimono these days? MDEC helped me identify my target market and they were the people and youngsters who admire Japanese culture. Through social media, you can almost sell anything you want and give micro-entrepreneurs the potential to grow because the impact is really huge.

“I never thought I would make RM15,000 per month, and during celebration days, my sales would go up to RM40,000, all because of adopting the digital platform,” she said.

Through Asphodel Studio, Suraya sells kimonos made for children and adults using the limited vintage fabric she bought in bulk from Japan.

The garments are designed in-house and sent outside for tailoring. Some basic sewing and alterations are done by her staff.

Suraya also sells handmade crafts such as bags, wallets and home decorations.

“To future entrepreneurs, I would advise them not to give up. The most important thing to learn is how to use the digital platform wisely. In today’s day and age, you can Google the ways on how to use social media for your marketing,” Suraya said.

She said Facebook and Instagram allow one to collect demographic data of customers which can be used to target advertisements.“You can always join digital marketing classes such as the one offered by MDEC to take your business globally,” she added.